Best Shortwave Radio Reviews and Buyer’s Guide
You along with your gang are up to a backpacking camp in some place where technology is the last thing that’s available nearby. No internet, no electricity and even no mobile network!
At any instance, what’s that one gadget you’ll use to communicate outer world in an emergency? Yes, it’s a mighty little shortwave radio box!
If you’re about to learn about SW radios for the first time, here is the basic definition- A shortwave radio is a remote device that receives transmissions of specific frequencies, especially frequencies that are between 3-30 megahertz.
As a radio lover myself, I had always an eye on the latest model of SW radios. According to my observation, there are a lot of products that worth spending a few hundred bucks. Also, buying a SW radio with all the feature you desire had never been so hard before.
Therefore, me and my research team decided to come up with the best shortwave radios available in today’s market. During the month-long research, what we have considered are- 100s of Brands and their public demands, real user’s reviews, expert’s analysis report and price-quality ratio. Finally, we have come up with a selection of best shortwave radios of 2017.
Hold your horses, here we go!
Buying A Shortwave Radio- What to Consider?
Table top, Portable or Ultra-portable?
Based on the budget, functionalities, and dimension, shortwave radios can be divided into three major classes at first glance. They are- Table top, Portable, and Ultra-portable shortwave radios, in descending order.
Firstly, let’s get into the Table top radios. Well, they are best fitted as a home setup coupled with number of accessories. Both of the power requirements and range are high in case of such radios.
Even, some of the desktops require special power supplies to provide the best output. A usual power requirement is 12-V DC at 1-amp current supply. But with usual home wall outlet powers are usually okay to run a table top radio.
Portable radios are mobile versions of shortwave communication in other words. It takes an expense of external DC power sources and sometimes works with the wall outlet power as well.
They catch almost all of the available shortwave broadcasts with ease. Typically, this is the most common type of radio people love to take for outdoor entertainment or emergency communication with themselves.
Lastly, we have the Ultra-portable radio in hand. If you are on a tight budget and still, want a radio that comes with all necessary features, this is something you would be looking for.
These are small in size and can easily fit into your glove's compartment, backpack or even the pocket of your jacket. But naturally, they can't receive weaker radio signals.
What is the Frequency Range?
Not only radios of this list, in fact, each and every radio set has its own reception capacity of bands. For shortwave radios, a band is a set of frequencies. Also, most of the bands group together depending on the wavelength.
Among the common band allocations, these are the most commons- AM bands, FM bands, Aircraft frequencies, Amateur radio, International commercials, Longwave bands and Coastal stations are important.
As mentioned before, these bands mainly vary on their frequency. Some of these vary on the location as well. Out advice is to choose the set of brands you’d like to listen and check out that your favourite SW radio matches these bands or not.
Shortwave Radio Accessories
As like many other products, the set of accessories you’ll get with your SW radio will matter a lot. Especially when you’ll take your radio set at outdoors, these accessories will be some great means of full-on entertainment and weather alert.
One of the most common accessories, which comes with almost all of the SW radios. But the problem is, some of them are not as powerful as they should be. Make sure your antenna kit has a long antenna wire, insulators, lead-in wire and a window feed strip.
Among other accessories, the monoaural headsets, external speakers and reference books are the most useful ones.
Top 10 Best Shortwave Radio Reviews:
1. Eton Grundig Satellit 750 Review
Welcome to the very first pick of our best portable shortwave radio reviews!
So, you know how purposefully a desktop SW radio is, and also aware of the remote facilities of a portable one. What you need most is ‘something in between,' where the radio captures all of the useful features, but small and portable enough. Keeping all those in minds, we've got the very first pick of our list- the Eton Grundig Satellit 750 for you.
At first glance, we loved the ergonomic look and smart design of the radio very much. In fact, it seemed to be the best shortwave radio ever made. But we were also concerned about a few idiosyncratic aspects of it.
Eton, being one of the most popular SW brands since establishment, it deserved a good first impression, and to be frank, it did. Later we went through the detailed features of it-
The very first impression was about its irresistibly cute design and simulation. It’s a scaled down version of the earlier two versions from Eton- Satelite 800 and Satelite 600/650. It's designed in such a way than minimum buttons are needed to be pressed while you're heading to a direct tuning.
The tuning nib is easy to handle with just a fingertip. Also, with the fast/slow tuning speed button, it's easier to use the auto tuning feature.
The Eton Grundig Satellit 750 has done a lot to improve the reception power of shortwaves. It's rotating ferrite antenna is something I wish many other modern radios offered.
Another rare feature Eton 750 offers are- You can choose between a high and low impedance antenna inputs for shortwaves.
And lastly, you can use an external antenna, which is, however, almost missing in most of today's SW radios.
We couldn't resist writing more of its features, but we have other models to talk about. So, here are the summarized features of Eton Grundig Satellit 750 in a nutshell-
- 100 programmable memories kept for each brand.
- Reviews FM/ AM/ Longwave (117-137 MHz) and of course, Shortwaves.
- Receives single-side bands (SSB).
- For frequency key-in, there are Auto/Direct and Manual input method.
- An external antenna port can be added while necessary.
- 360 rotating antennae.
- Digital display with two alarm clocks.
- Great quality in sound, both in stereo and speaker.
- Bass and treble tuning are completely adjustable.
- Compatible with both AC and DC.
2. Tecsun PL880 Review
Welcome to another of our top picks of best shortwave radios of this year! Here in this pick, we kept something that would be a great kit for people who love to have the smoothest possible control panel in their SW radio model.
In fact, I have never seen such a massive response over the announcement of a portable radio, unless Tecsun PL880 was there in the market.
So, I was very curious to check out what PL800 has got in itself and to be honest; I wasn't disappointed at all. By being manufactured by a promising brand like Tecsun, it was demanded to be a hi-tech piece of innovation from even it was launched.
It's quite identical to its past two models- PL-660 and Pl-600. The buttons are highly responsive, and as I said before, the entire control panel has got a very smooth response, maybe the smoothest I've ever seen.
It has got all of the possible controls and connections a radio lover can ever wish. ON the left side of it, it has an external jack, a headphone jack, a line-out jack., a three-position antenna gain switch and a 5 Volt DC input jack.
On the other hand, the right side has got the central tuning knob, the volume control, the fine-tuning knob, a tone controller switch and a backlight switch. Lastly, on the top of the piece, there is a Snooze button.
That's the summary of the configuration, what about the performance?
My first impression of the performance of this little superhero is- How wonderful the sound can become for such a small device! I quite liked the sound quality of the radio. It produces so mush flat(accurate) frequency response.
Although, it doesn't have a bass that some larger models have, that hardly makes any difference in the listening enjoyment.
Lastly, I found some hidden features that aren't listed in the manual. I'm not sure why the company hasn't listed this. The features are awesome.
Some of them are- USB/LSB synchronous detector, enabling DNR function, Muting Threshold adjustment, displaying firmware version, Changing line-out level and much more.
- Impressive ergonomics with a dedicated fine-tuning control.
- Most of its functions are available by just holding up a button.
- Nice sensitivity and smoothness in control.
- For both AM/SSB, it has a wider array of functions.
- Doesn’t mute between frequencies at all.
- Comes up with a sturdy carrying case.
- A dual conversion receiver with PLL synthesized.
- A 24-hours alarm clock with sleep timer of 0-120 minutes.
- A single 18650 Li-ion batteries are enough to power it up for hours.
3. Kaito KA500 Review
Have you ever been left I dark during storms and natural calamities while hanging out on a backpacking tour? If yes, you might look around something to reach out the nearest police zone as soon as possible, something like the Kaito KA500 emergency shortwave radio!
Yes, Kaito KA500 had been one of those few SW radios that are highly supportive in such situations. Tell me why? Well, there is something in these sorts of emergencies where regular radios won't be of any help.
It has its own solar power supply. So, no matter if you don't have extra supplies of batteries or an AC power outlet, Kaito KA500 will be there with you. Besides, it has got a high-quality AC type brushless generator.
More to add- it has got a 5 LED reading lamp that you can use to read when the lit condition is so poor out there. Also, a multi-functional LED flashlight is there, so that you can use as a pathfinder as well.
In a nutshell, Kaito KA500 comes up with every facility you will be looking for in an emergency outdoor situation.
You might be wondering about the price of this already! But no worries, it's a top notch for its price and repays every single penny you'll invest on it. The crank power system is easy to operate, and the radio itself is ready to operate straight out of the box.
It's a compact design, and you'll feel no burden to carry it along with your other hangout kits. Lastly, you have a number of colours to choose from.
So, let’s summarize the description. What I think is, maybe Kaito KA500 isn't a great tool for home entertainment, but when you need a radio communication in a hazardous weather, Kaito KA500 will be there to rescue you. Now it's up to you to decide how much you want this.
- Made of strong and water-resistant ABS material.
- 6- way powering system with hand crank generator and solar panel.
- Covers all of the FM/AM/2-band shortwaves.
- 24/7 real time weather forecast with emergency alert system.
- Can be used as an emergency mobile battery charger.
- 5-LED reading lamp, LED flashlight and a LED S.O.S button.
- Comes up with an earphone and USB chord.
4. Sangean ATS-909X BK Review
Before we get into detains about Sangean ATS-909X BK, lets have a bit of history. The previous model from the manufacturer Sangean was ATS-909, which had been a very popular one for years. It was a perfect combination of great features and solid constructions.
So, people already had a positive expectation on the next model, and yes, they weren't disappointed. Even Sangean worked a lot to improve the weakness of the previous model (Lower RF sensitivity) into the newer Sangean ATS-909X.
Let’s talk about the performance first. Sangean ATS-909X BK dies great with the FM. With a stereo or headphones in, you can almost feel every bit of the music. The metal dome speaker of 3 inches runs great compared to other multi brands.
Okay, so what about the controls?
As I mentioned before, the manufacturer worked a lot to improve the sensitivity and the smoothness of the control as well. A potentiometer type RF gain control is set inside that makes it easier to operate the radio. Also, you can select between three audio equalizer settings rather than using tone controls.
Well, there is a little negative about this radio that we think you should be aware of. The performance of Sangean ATS-909X BK is quite poor with the stock telescopic. But you consider adding an external antenna, no need to worry about that at all!
- 406 presets from FM/LW/MW/SW with one priority preset.
- Five different tuning methods via several input systems.
- Auto tuning and auto scan.
- Dual conversion on SW and RF gain control.
- LCD screen with bright LED backlight.
- Both alarm and HWS (Human Awake System) buzzer embedded in it.
- Stereo selection switch and FM mono.
5. Eton NGWSATB Satellite AM/FM Radio Review
Trusted radio manufacturing company Eton has quite a long story of creating radio models under the series name- Satellite. As an example, their most recent Eton Satelit 750, earlier version of Satelit 800 or E1. In the mix, the latest addition is Eton NGWSATB Satelit, which is quite a departure than the other models of this series.
With an outstanding design, attractive finishing and quite a good performance, the Eton NGWSATB has already taken it's placed as a radio which is Out of this world, according to the manufacturers.
In fact, that's what it is! When I came over to dig deeper about its features, I found a combination of some highly user-friendly features that are quite rare in many of its competitors.
It receives any possible radio waves that are meant to be broadcasted. It includes AM(MW), LW and FM. Also, it receives VHF aircraft band an SSB sidebands as well. Most importantly, you can access all of them right from your bedroom.
Eton has put a lot of efforts to improve the sound quality in this latest Satelit series addition. A sync detector is embedded to decrease noise level and lower its fading and distortion.
And to peak up the weaker signals, it had been made way more sensitive than before. More on, it has engaged a Synchronous Tuning Circuit that will enhance the shortwave radio signals.
As any poplar SW radio brands, Eton NGWSATB will keep your time preserved. With a dual local-world time setting, it has also combined a radio buzzer, alarm, sleep timer and time backup in it. So, you don’t need to buy a wall-clock at all.
To let you not getting out of power suddenly, Eton NGWSATB has got a built-in battery power display. So, backing up the power will never be the problem.
It was hard for us to find any negatives, but still, we came up with a few. Firstly, after hours of continuous playing, he battery life seems to decrease faster. You may take the batteries off when not using. Also, there is not a back-lit button, which may lead to some difficulties while you're using at night.
- PLL synthesized conversion receiver with dual mode.
- FM telescopic antenna for better reception.
- 1 KHz tuning with single side band.
- 700 memory storage with quick allocation.
- Comes with a travel case to carry this radio around while you’re on the go.
- Powers itself with 4 AA batteries, with a battery power indicator.
- Can be tuned both automatically and manually by inputting digits.
6. Sony ICF-SW7600GR AM/FM Shortwave Radio Review
What is the best portable radio to take with the upcoming trip or just off the work? Well, without no doubt, this is the most common questions a music lover will ask you. But while narrowing my list of such radios, I ended up with a lot of models I was confused to put a direct comparison.
So, I decided to look at the unique point of view and found something charming about this Sony ICF-SW7600GR SW radio. Being the 6th of the list, I’ve got many other things to describe about it.
Not digging so deep, I was already impressed with the range and strength of signal reception of this little magic box. Let anole the cities, even from mid-Atlantic; some users have claimed it to work perfectly! Listening to that, I got more curious about the inner features of it.
While looking deep into the features, the original model 7600D, which came out in 1983 made me pretty nostalgic. What caught my attention is its strong selectivity of stations.
If you're living in such a city where there'll be a number of stations with close frequencies, Sony ICF-SW7600GR will help you to catch a specific one. So, for urban music lovers, I guess it would fit the best.
Sony ICF-SW7600GR is one of those multi-functioning all round world band receiver. As mentioned before, it has an improved control and sensitivity to choose the right station as per your wish. Although, in the case of design, there not something unique, but this set is plenty for its price.
The coverage that it provides in FM/LW/MW/SW radio stations is in between 150 KHz to 20000 KHz. Simply any possible stations will lie between this change and you will reach no hassle tuning those individually.
It's a good one to carry around in a short trip or camp. A good weight for travel and external aerial and power supply are exactly what a travel radio demands. But there is one small problem in Sony ICF-SW7600GR. The whip aerial that comes along with it is a non-soldered connection.
So, it loses connection easily. But as long as you're careful enough, that shouldn't be a major problem.
- Can scan and memorize 100 different frequencies.
- Can cover stations from even stations even from 100s of miles away.
- PLL digital receiver that fits great in all of FM/MW/SW and AM shortwave and longwave.
- Direct, manual, preset and scan- four methods for tuning to any particular station.
- Preset features with six alphanumeric letters.
- Both dual clock and world clock functions.
- Built in timer.
7. C. Crane CC Skywave Radio Review
While we discuss a multi-purpose SW radio, one of our concerns is how long it will last. Because we all want to get the best deal for the money. Eventually, when we reached to C. Crane CC Skywave Radio, we found something exclusive that has a lot to do with the durability.
Our first impression was the absence of rubber coating outside, which has been Anyhow, one of the most common practices in modern models. For not having a rubber coat outside, there are some benefits.
Rubber coats deteriorate over time and don't have a heat exposure for the radio. So, the radio gets enough ventilation to throw the internal heats out, which is a vital role played to increase its lifetime.
The LCD with LED backlight is quite small. But the wondering fact is, it's perfectly viewable from many angles around. All the buttons on the front panel have a very tactical response. Although, sometimes may require slightly more pressure, especially after years of use.
That was about design, but what’s inside?
C. Crane CC Skywave Radio has a pretty fine radio station allocation feature. Just find the station and hold up any number for two seconds and it’s done.
Talking about the bandwidth, there are five on air bands, medium wave, and shortwave: 1,2,3,4 and 6 KHz. To cycle between these, range of bandwidths, all you have to do is just press the bandwidth button. By defaults, it sets to a 3 KHz.
One unique feature I've noticed in this radio is- Changing the tuning speed manually. Therefore, because of this feature, the frequency step-spacing are from 5 or 1 KHz steps, on the tuning knob. Although, I prefer to use the front-panel tuning step of this radio.
It's a tool for both first timers and experts as well. What I found is, it's easy to operate for beginners. But sometimes even experts have to take help from the manual. So, I'll say it's an unmixed blessing with a lot to explore, even for experts.
- Compact, light and portable in design to carry along in outdoors.
- A quick button to toggle between radio frequency and time display.
- Quick memory allocation and access.
- Lighted LCD, with a viewpoint of 360 degree.
- 400 presets of memory allocation.
- The tuning speed can be changed from fast to slow by turning the tuning knob.
- Dual alarm setting.
- Apart from some hidden functions, it's easy to use for both beginners and experts.
- Gives a battery backup of 60-70 hours.
8. Midland WR-120 Public Alert Radio Review
So far, we got only one radio model to review as a weather-alert expert. But the good news is, we just found another one- the Midland WR-120 Weather Alert Radio.
The Midland WR-120 seems quite different than just a weather radio at the firs glance. I have seen very few weather alert radios to have such a good sound quality. With a compact music system and 90 dB alert siren system, it will reach out to your ears in a smooth manner.
That was about sound, but as long as it’s a weather radio, how about the signal forecasting?
Well, the Midland WR-120 has got customized memory system for 25 countries. Also, the SAME programming method helps it to sound an alert right before the specific area is threatened by natural calamities.
For helping out more people, it has got a triangular linguistics in it. All of English, French, and Spanish are available for compact alerts for weather. All you have to of is to select the area in which you are in.
Lastly, as another smart weather radio, it has a default message encoding system in it.
Now let’s come to the negatives of Midland WR-120. While going through people's feedback ion this, I found some issues to warn you about.
- Comes up with an extremely low price.
- Precise weather and hazards alert.
- Backlit LED display with color-coded alert lights.
- An external antenna jack and special antenna jack are there to give you better reception.
- Memory allocation for 25 countries.
- World clock, local clock and alarm clock with snoozing feature.
- Both Alkaline and electric power system is included.
9. TECSUN PL-380 DSP Review
You may remember that we talked about three types of SW radios based on sizing. The last of them was an ultra-portable SW radio. Here in number 8, we have got something that's quite like that. TECSUN PL-380 DSP is one micro-sized radio that fits into any shirt pocket and can be your companion while you are on the go.
As they are supposed to be used at outdoors, it comes with some accessories. These include- A zippered cloth case with pocket inside, a small fold-over pouch for ear pods, earbuds, external antenna wire, 3 NimH batteries and curtain clips. For charging directly from the laptop or adapter, there's a USB charger chord as well.
Let's get into the details of its functions and ergonomics-
Firstly, I got a quite impressive experience with the design of TECSUN PL-380 DSP. It's small but gives a nice solid click while the buttons are presses. There is a pressing tone for the buttons. Which is however, can be muted if you want. To activate/deactivate all of the controls at once, there' a lock button.
With a yellow backlight, there is a clear and easy-to-rad display. It can be activated anytime with a just a press of button. You can make all of the alarm time, clock, received signal, temperature appears or disappears with a press on the display button.
The PL-380 uses a short and ferrite bar antenna to receive signal. It's of 1/8 inches in length and works great with all of the LW, MW, SW and FM signals. As most of the time, you are supposed to use it outside, no discomfort will occur at receiving even signals from 100s of miles.
The audio quality is quite good while you are using a headphone. But as you know, the speakers aren't strong enough to entertain you in a garden or open space. You better use your boom box for that.
There are few other features that I would like to mention. It has 550 memory locations to preset stations. It runs through 3 AA batteries, which are however USB chargeable.
In a nutshell, I am quite impressed with the feature it comes with being a low-price radio. If I were a hangout guy, I definitely would take this in every tour I make.
- Small, compact and easily convenient to carry along.
- Lock function, light and snooze key and earphone jack.
- A selectable range of seven tuning modes.
- The alarm function can work with both buzzer or your favourite radio station.
- Easy tuning mode to scan the existing stations and preset with ease.
- Comes with some accessories items.
- Ni-Mh rechargeable batteries (3 AA units) with USB rechargeability.
- Digital clock function with 12/2 hours format.
10. Midland WR300 Weather Radio Review
We are almost at the bottom of our top 10 best portable shortwave radio reviews. Here in number ten, we've got a weather specialist, which is not that good entertainer.
But in the case of emergency weather forecasts or communication, it's hard to beat the Midland WR300.
So, what the best feature you expect from a weather forecasting radio? Yes, it's the high reception power during a natural hazard. From that perspective, I would score it a 10/10, considering all of its aspects.
With such a price range, very radio manufacturers can offer such a durable, lightweight SW radio with great reception.
As I said, Midland WR300 is more of an emergency rescuer rather than a bedroom radio. So, all of the features are designed in that way.
It can receive seven channels of NOAA along with some natural warning broadcasts such as tornadoes, flood, and thunderstorms.
Even, in emergency situations, when a specific county is threatened, the SAME technology inside activates the alarm.
To adjust with different locations of traveling, there are 23 programmable locations. The smart memory system allows you to set up to 23 different provinces or counties.
There are some problems I have found while researching about the Midland WR300. Firstly, it's not that efficient in case of home uses. Even while you're outside, you'll get the best out of it if you add an external antenna to it.
Secondly, it's battery condition isn't that much long lasting for continuous outdoor uses. So, you need to have backup power supplies while you're taking Midland WR300 in a three days camp.
Apart from a few odds, I found it quite likely as a companion of outdoor campaigns. It can rescue you with water forecasts and alarms and can entertain you in the meantime.
- Featured with SAME technology to receive emergency alerts.
- Compact and portable in design.
- User-selectable warning system embedded with it.
- 23 programable presets to allocate manually.
- You can add or remove alerts when necessary.
- 90 dB siren and voice alert feature.
Common Maintenance Issues of A Shortwave Radio
It’s not true that all of the SW models that’s are in the list, or any top-rated list serves for years without any interruption. Certain number of common problems always take place in case of such electric device.
We felt a responsibility to let you know these common problems before you buy one. As a bonus, we’ve included the very solution to those problems-
Problem: Drying out the insider zone of the radio.
Solution: Try to keep it in a humidity and temperature controlled environment, especially when you’re using it outside.
Problem: Sun fading and losing the colour and visual.
Solution: Try to keep the radio out of direct sunlight, as much as possible.
Problem: Veneers separating.
Solution: The solution is similar to problem no. 1. Keep it in suh a place which is dry and cold.
Problem: Cracks and scratches on the body.
Solution: Once the cracks are occurred, there is nothing to do with those. Instead, you can avoid putting heavy objects on it anymore.
Problem: Water damage.
Solution: Keep the entre device safe and distant from water. Carry it in a water-proof bag while you’re at outdoor.
Some Quick Tips to Improve Your Experience with SW Radio
More or less, almost everyone knows how to get the music buzzing from a SW radio. But how many of us know better uses of it? Have a look at some advanced tricks-
- To improve the wireless reception, especially when you are at home, upgrade to an external or larger antenna. Almost any metallic wire with alligator clip with do the job fine.
- Scan the bands of short wave lengths and find the content named “hit or miss”.
- Send a SWL (short Wave Listener) Reception Report to any of the broadcaster. You’ll get a QSL card and becomes a more prior listener.
The Bottom Line
We have reached at the bottom of our best shortwave radio reviews. Hope that, in the mean time you’ve made your own shortlist of SW radios models. Before you make your final purchasing decision, we have one last advice for you. It’s fine if you want your SW radio as a 24/7 entertainer. But don’t forget to make the best use of this magic boxes while you’re in an emergency preparedness.
Best of luck with your purchase!